Surprised by findings that the ancient Devadasi system continues to exist in some parts of the country, the Home Ministry has asked all states to take strong action against those involved in the heinous practice which is against dignity of women.
In a letter to all states and Union territories, the Home Ministry has said Devadasi system is inhuman and one of the most heinous practices against women degrading them to the lowest level. It directed that the laws against it be implemented “in letter and spirit” and steps taken to ensure that the victims are rehabilitated.
The Ministry said it has come to notice through various PILs and media news that Devadasi system still exists in certain parts of the country, especially in “Beriya” and “Nat” communities in the name of religious practices.
“Even though it was abolished long back through various legislations by different state governments but reports reveal that the Devadasi system still persists. Such practices are absolutely inhuman and against the dignity of women and therefore the Devadasi system needs to be abolished both in letter and spirit,” the letter said.
The Home Ministry said the practice of the Devadasi system in any form is in total contravention of Sec 370, 370A of the Indian Penal Code. In furtherance of continuing efforts by state governments and Union Territories, they are expected to ensure the implementation of existing law strictly to prevent such practices under any guise, it said.
Any and all such practices and cases should be dealt with strictly and without exceptions as per extant law. State governments and Union Territories should initiate special drives to identify all such victims and suitably rehabilitate them by providing proper counseling, medical treatment, guidance support and motivation to lead a dignified life.
For this purpose, help, support of NGOs working in this field may be taken. Special sensitisation and skill development programme should be organised for such victims so that they can take up income generation activities to lead a dignified life, the letter said.
Devadasi system is a religious practice in some parts of India whereby parents marry a daughter to a deity or a temple. The marriage usually occurs before the girl reaches puberty. There have been allegations that Devadasis are often subjected to sexual exploitation in the name of religion.